Rozier Rises Up In Clutch To Help C's Advance

LAS VEGAS – Marcus Smart went down Thursday night, but that fact allowed Terry Rozier to rise up.

Rozier took over during clutch time of Thursday night’s game against Portland to lead the Celtics to a 91-85 victory. He scored Boston’s final eight points of regulation to turn what was a tie ballgame into a six-point win.

“The coaches believed in me. My teammates believed in me,” Rozier confidently stated after the game. “They gave me space to make plays, and that’s what I did.”

The most important play of the stretch arrived with 44.7 seconds left on the clock. With the score knotted up at 85-85, Rozier took possession of the ball on the left wing as the shot clocked ticked into single digits. His defender was draped all over him but he still opted to fire up a 3-pointer that caught nothing but net to give the C’s a lead they would never relinquish.

“I knew he was all up on me, but I didn’t know how much time was left,” Rozier said as he recalled the play. “We were kind of winding down the shot clock, so I just wanted to get it up and get a high arc and it dropped.”

Boston got a stop on the ensuing possession and Rozier iced the game with three free throws over the final 16.7 seconds. He scored a team-high 19 points, including 10 during the fourth quarter.

Rozier’s summer league coach, Micah Shrewsberry, couldn’t say enough good things about the young point guard following the contest. He used the word “poise” and “maturity” to describe Rozier’s performance; those are not words that are typically associated with rookies.

One thing Shrewsberry couldn’t say was that he was surprised by Rozier’s clutch performance.

“I’m sure he’s had opportunities like that at Louisville before,” he said, “and that’s why he didn’t seem rattled when we called his number out of a timeout and told him, ‘Hey, we need a bucket right here.’”

Rozier later gave context as to why he wasn’t rattled by the circumstances of the game.

“I know I have the ultimate eye of confidence to take a shot down the stretch if a coach needs me to do it,” said Rozier. “I’m not afraid of taking big shots and things like that. It’s a 50-50 chance. It might go in, it might not, but I’m not scared to take it.”

Now the Celtics know that in Smart’s absence, they still have a point guard who can carry them to a win down the stretch. Ironically, it took an unfortunate injury to Smart for Rozier’s clutch gene to show face.

With Smart now out of the lineup, Rozier says that he expects his role to expand. He does want to warn everyone, however, that they shouldn’t expect him focus solely on scoring the rock.

“I’m going to find my minutes to do something really well to help my team,” he said, “whether that’s pushing the ball really fast down the court and trying to beat them up the court, rebounding at the guard spot or something else, I’m going to get in there and do it.”

He sure did “it” Thursday night. The rookie rose up during clutch time and kept Boston’s pursuit of a summer league championship alive.